Friday, June 24, 2016

Man and his True Life (St. Athanasios Parios)


By St. Athanasios Parios

True knowledge of God is the foremost and chiefest part of happiness, the root of immortality. Man's happiness consists of two things: first, of a true conception of God; and second, of the acts that man as a rational being ought to perform. "To know You is the whole of righteousness, and to comprehend Your power is the root of immortality" (Wisd. of Sol. 15:3).

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It is very proper and necessary for Christians to believe in the Holy Scriptures and in the views of the divinely wise Teachers of the Holy Church: the Basils, the Gregories, the Chrysostoms, the Athanasioses, the Cyrils, the Ambroses, the Damascenes - men who were of the same mind-set as the Apostles.

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Man was not created for the Earth, but for Heaven. He is not wholly the body, but also the soul, which does not disintegrate together with the body at death, but is immortal.

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Man is chiefly the soul, which is rational and indestructible.

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"God created man of the dust of the earth, and breathed upon his face the breath of life, and the man became a living soul" (Gen. 2:7). This statement must be rightly understood, in order to avoid the heretical view that the soul is from the essence of God. Such an interpretation is part of the teaching of the pantheists. What is meant is that to the body that was created of the earth God gave vivifying energy, and this became constitutive of the essence of the soul. In other words, "inspiration" means the formation of the soul.

In Holy Scripture, it is said that the human soul was created in the image of God. It is said to be an image in that it is incorporeal, immaterial, ruling, invisible, possessing the power of freedom and self-determination - for God has all these, though to a higher degree. It means also that the soul is immortal, for God is immortal. He alone is immortal by His nature, whereas the soul of man, as an image of God, is immortal through Grace, not by nature.

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The soul is the most valuable, the most precious of human things. Yet there are persons who have no affection for it, and no fear lest they completely lose it....

In olden times, when virtue was honored, the first and only care of the Christians was that regarding their soul. Those unforgettable Christians, afire with the aspiration for the salvation of their soul, withdrew to far away place and became monastics, in order to devote themselves to the cultivation of virtue. There they hastened to God-inspired and sanctified men, in order to be taught what to do in order to save their soul.

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Pythagoras and Plato, and their followers, rightly held that the soul is immortal. However, lacking the divinely revealed teaching, they mythologized regarding the origin of the soul and the afterlife, teaching the pre-existence of the soul and its reincarnation.

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The love of learning is a natural law, and Aristotle's saying: "All men by nature desire knowledge," which appears at the beginning of his Metaphysics, is axiomatic.

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Cebes, and before him Socrates, called true education that which effects a purification of the soul from the irrational passions, and results in the achievement of all the virtues: courage, justice, temperance, clemency, gentleness, compassion, and all the rest, which constitute the subject matter of Ethical Philosophy. These virtues lead man to happiness.

From Modern Orthodox Saints 15: Saint Athanasios Parios by Constantine Cavarnos.

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